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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - Stock Status Overview

Marine Fisheries

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Stock Status Overview

8-point rule

 


The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries Stock Status Overview is issued annually and reviews available information to determine the overall condition of North Carolina’s state-managed fishery resources. The information in each year is based on fisheries data available in the prior year.

Annually, a stock status overview is determined for each state-managed species by the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries based on the division’s Stock Status Overview Categories and Definitions. Stock assessments are the primary tools used by managers to assist in determining the status of stocks and developing appropriate management measures for their long-term viability. If there is adequate data on a species to conduct a stock assessment, and one is completed that is accepted as a basis for management, the assessment results may be used by fishery managers to adjust harvest regulations. It also may be used for habitat improvements and stock enhancement techniques. If the assessment concludes the stock is in good shape - the stock is not overfished and overfishing is not occurring - then fishery managers may find no changes to existing management strategies are needed.

If the stock is overfished or overfishing is occurring, fishery managers will consider actions to improve the condition of the stock. A stock is overfished when the population size is too small. Overfishing occurs when the removal rate of fish is too high. These determinations, overfished and overfishing, are further defined here. The status determinations for the state-managed species are reviewed annually.

Stock condition is impacted by many factors, not just fishing. The influence on stock condition from biotic (living, biological) and/or abiotic (non-living, physical) factors that cannot be controlled, such as water quality, habitat loss, disease, life history and predation is difficult to determine. The reliability of the status determination for a stock is dependent on how well all the factors are understood and quantified. For several data-limited species, the most important action is to begin research and monitoring projects to fill critical data needs.

The Division of Marine Fisheries and Marine Fisheries Commission are the only authorities in North Carolina coastal fishing waters that can implement plans and regulations to manage North Carolina marine and estuarine fisheries. The commission adopted the North Carolina Fishery Management Plan for Interjurisdictional Fisheries which selectively adopts management measures contained in approved federal council or Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission fishery management plans  by reference as minimum standards. The goal of the Interjurisdictional Plan is to adopt these other plans, consistent with state law, approved by the federal Councils or the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission by reference, and implement corresponding fishery regulations in North Carolina to comply with or complement them.

Many fishery management plans have been developed and implemented by the federal Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (federal Councils) or the compact of states under the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. The goal of these plans, established under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (through the federal councils’ fishery management plans) and the Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Cooperative Management Act (Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission fishery management plans), are similar to the goals of the North Carolina Fisheries Reform Act of 1997 to “ensure long-term viability” of these fisheries. The North Carolina Fisheries Reform Act requires the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries to prepare fishery management plans for adoption by the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission for all commercially and recreationally significant species or fisheries that comprise state marine or estuarine resources. The goal of these plans is to ensure long-term viability of these fisheries. Thirteen species have fishery management plans for North Carolina.

North Carolina is an active, voting member on the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission as well as the South and Mid-Atlantic fishery management councils. North Carolina’s participation in these organizations is critical to ensure that North Carolina’s fishermen and fisheries resources are considered and adequately protected. To that end, North Carolina, through its Division of Marine Fisheries staff, Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission or federal council members, and citizen advisors, participates fully in the development of these federal and Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission fishery management plans that have an impact on commercial and recreational fisheries in North Carolina.

A stock status overview determination for interjurisdictional species occurs based on the federal councils’ and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s processes for those fishery management plans.

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2016 NORTH CAROLINA DIVISION OF MARINE FISHERIES STOCK STATUS OVERVIEW – STATE MANAGED SPECIES
(July 2017, based on 2016 Data)

checkmark = Viable up arrow= Recovering blue diamond = Concern down arrow= Depleted blue question mark = Unknown

Species

Status

Comments

Bay Scallop
(Closed to fishing)
scallops

blue diamond Bay scallops are considered an annual crop, so high natural mortality from environmental change and predation impacts annual abundance. As a result, a stock assessment is not an effective tool for management. Sampling showed low numbers in all areas and harvest was not allowed in 2016 because abundance levels did not meet the thresholds to open the season.

Blue Crab
Blue crab

blue diamond Results of the stock assessment update in 2016 met the moderate management trigger for adult abundance. Additional management measures were implemented in June 2016 to improve stock condition. The stock assessment update in 2017 indicates the condition of the stock has not improved and continues to need protection.

Eastern Oyster
Oysters

blue diamond A stock assessment could not be conducted due to limited data; therefore, population size and the rate of removals from the population are unknown. Commercial landings from public bottom have been variable, and landings from private bottom in the past few years have increased significantly due to more interest in aquaculture.

+Estuarine Striped Bass:
Albemarle Sound/Roanoke River
Management Area
Striped bass

blue diamond The 2016 Albemarle/Roanoke striped bass stock assessment update indicates overfishing (excessive fishing mortality) is not occurring and the stock is not overfished (stock size is adequate). Although the stock is not overfished, the abundance of mature females in the population has declined steadily since the peak in 2003. While very large, the estimate of abundance in the final year of the assessment (2014) is the most uncertain and should be viewed with caution. The estimate will likely decrease as additional years of data are added to the model. A new benchmark stock assessment is underway in conjunction with the ongoing fishery management plan review. Results are expected in the late fall of 2017.

Estuarine Striped Bass:  Central/Southern
Management Area
Striped bass

blue diamond The Central Southern Management Area stocks include the Tar/Pamlico, Neuse, and Cape Fear rivers. The major issue is determining the environmental and biological factors preventing a self-sustaining population. No stock assessment is currently available for management. A benchmark stock assessment is underway in conjunction with the ongoing fishery management plan review. Results are expected in the late fall of 2017.

Hard Clam
Clam

blue question mark A stock assessment could not be conducted due to limited data; therefore, population size and the rate of removals from the population are unknown. Harvest fluctuates, often in response to changes in demand, improved harvesting methods, and increases in polluted shellfish area closures.  

Kingfishes
Kingfish

checkmark

A stock assessment is not available due to lack of migration data, so an annual trend analysis with management triggers is used to monitor the stock. Though three management triggers were activated in 2016, no action is required because triggers must be activated for two consecutive years to warrant further evaluation and possible management change.

+Red Drum
Red drum

up arrow

The regional benchmark stock assessment (North Carolina and all states north), conducted by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission in 2017, indicates that overfishing (excessive fishing mortality) is not occurring and that management targets continue to be met. The size of the population (overfished status), however, continues to be unknown due to limited data available for the adult population.

+River Herring
(Closed to fishing)
River herring

down arrow

River herring are currently listed as depleted in the Albemarle Sound by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. This designation is based on the results of the 2012 Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Atlantic coastwide stock assessment. The North Carolina portion of the coastwide assessment is for the Albemarle Sound blueback herring stock only. River herring in other parts of the state are currently listed as unknown by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission due to the lack of data for these systems. Many factors contribute to the stock’s failure to recover, including bycatch in offshore fisheries, degraded water quality, and reductions in spawning habitat due to dams and other blockages. An update to the coastwide stock assessment with data through 2015 is underway with results expected in the fall of 2017.

Sheepshead
Sheepshead

blue question mark No stock assessment is available for sheepshead due to lack of data; therefore, the stock status is currently unknown. Landings trends and other biological data prompted the Marine Fisheries Commission to implement new harvest restrictions in June 2015. The division continues to monitor landings and collect data on the stock. In 2016, both recreational and commercial landings were below the 10-year average.

Shrimp
Shrimp

checkmark

The stock is considered an annual crop that consists of three species of shrimp (brown, pink, white). The population size is determined mainly by the number of shrimp entering the population each year, which is driven by environmental conditions. Therefore, a stock assessment is not an effective tool for management. The division is continuing to collaborate with the industry on bycatch reduction in the shrimp trawl fishery.

Southern Flounder
Southern flounder

blue diamond The Division of Marine Fisheries 2014 stock assessment of southern flounder in North Carolina waters was not approved for management due to mixing of the stock on a regional scale (the U.S. South Atlantic). There are concerns about the coastwide trends in juvenile and adult abundance and the high percentage of immature fish in the harvest. A regional stock assessment is underway including partners from Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina and is scheduled to be completed in late 2017.

+Spotted Seatrout
Spotted seatrout

checkmark

The 2014 stock assessment showed a viable status and removals from fishing were considered sustainable. Recreational and commercial landings for 2016 were at average levels compared to the past 10 years and there is no indication that the stock is at risk.

Striped Mullet
Striped mullet

blue diamond

The 2011 stock assessment indicated overfishing (excessive fishing mortality) was not occurring but could not determine the overfished (stock size) status. The stock is classified as concern due to commercial landings from 2016 falling below the landings thresholds established in Amendment 1 and due to historically low striped mullet abundance in division sampling surveys. 
+ The species is also managed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. Management measures are implemented by the North Carolina Fishery Management Plan for Interjurisdictional Fisheries, which defers to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission plans.

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MANAGEMENT AUTHORITY FOR INTERJURISDITIONAL SPECIES

Through the North Carolina Fishery Management Plan for Interjurisdictional Fisheries species or species groups managed under the jurisdiction of the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission (NCMFC), the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), and the South and/or Mid-Atlantic Councils (SAMFC and MAFMC).

Species

Stock Status Overview Link

NCMFC

ASMFC

SAFMC

MAFMC

American Eel

ASMFC

 

 

 

American Shad

ASMFC

 

 

 

Atlantic Croaker

ASMFC

 

 

 

Atlantic Menhaden

ASMFC

 

 

 

Atlantic Sturgeon

ASMFC

 

 

 

Black Drum

ASMFC

 

 

 

Black Sea Bass (North of Hatteras)

ASMFC, MAFMC

 

 

Black Sea Bass (South of Hatteras)

SAFMC

 

 

 

Bluefish

ASMFC, MAFMC

 

 

Cobia

SAFMC

 

 

 

Dolphin

SAFMC

 

 

 

Gag

SAFMC

 

 

 

Hickory Shad

ASMFC

 

 

 

King Mackerel

SAFMC

 

 

 

Red Drum

NCMFC, ASMFC

 

 

River Herring

NCMFC, ASMFC

 

 

Scup

ASMFC, MAFMC

 

 

Sharks

ASMFC

 

 

 

Snapper-Grouper

SAFMC

 

 

 

Spanish Mackerel

ASMFC, MAFMC

 

 

Spiny Dogfish

ASMFC, MAFMC

 

 

Spot

ASMFC

 

 

 

Spotted Seatrout

NCMFC, ASMFC

 

 

Striped Bass (Albemarle Sound/Roanoke River Management Area)

 

NCMFC, ASMFC

 

 

Striped Bass (Atlantic Migratory)

ASMFC

 

 

 

Summer Flounder

ASMFC, MAFMC

 

 

Weakfish

ASMFC

 

 

 

 

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N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries • 3441 Arendell Street • Morehead City, NC 28557 • 252-726-7021 or 800-682-2632

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